Chocolate has been one of the world’s favorite confections for thousands of years. But it hasn’t always been the sweet treat we know and love today. Mental Floss host Justin Dodd takes us through the earliest known uses of cacao beans, and explains the process that turns it into chocolate.
THE BEST History
Science video makers Kurzgesagt teamed up with author and online personality John Green to create an animated clip to accompany an excerpt from his podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed. The focus of the episode is on the possible meaning of cave paintings, and what they might tell us about the human condition.
We may take the roof over our head for granted these days, but in the 18th century, families venturing into the interior of North America had to build their own shelters to survive the elements as they headed westward. Frontier lifestyle expert Jon Townsend shows us how they might have constructed a shelter without any nails.
In his latest book, author Cody Cassidy (And Then You’re Dead) offers up the origin stories of everyday stuff. From the first time anyone ever used soap, to the first time someone drank beer, it’s packed with fascinating stories about ubiquitous things, told in a fun and illuminating way.
On April 30, 1948, famed British off-road brand Land Rover first came into being. To celebrate the company’s birthday, they’ve shared a terrific gallery of historic images which capture scenes of these rugged and versatile vehicles helping people achieve great things.
(PG-13: Language) Here in America, shopping malls are a dying breed. But what happened to these symbols of capitalism that were once the gathering place for teens as they sipped on Orange Juliuses and perused the black light illuminated aisles of Spencer Gifts? Ordinary Things explores the demise of the mall.
This omnipresent stackable chair is known as a “Monobloc,” and it can be found everywhere from suburban backyards to major tourist attractions. What is it about this mundane, yet functional piece of molded plastic that made it so wildly popular? Neo digs into this so-called “context-free object.”
The idea of a pork patty “restructured” into the shape of ribs is just wrong to us, but that didn’t stop McDonald’s from doing it, nor did it stop millions from craving this boneless fast food oddity. Weird History dives into the origins of the McRib sandwich in this lighthearted lesson.
(PG-13: Language) While they’re not the most fashionable things, face masks are a must in public places these days. Ordinary Things dives into the origins of face coverings, from the earliest ceremonial masks, to costumes, to their use as protective gear. Can you imagine walking around in those plague doctor masks?
There was a brief moment in the 1970s when a unique musical style hit the scene. Musicians from Zambia, influenced by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple, melded rock with African rhythms, creating a distinctive sound. Bandsplaining offers up a thoughtful look back at this seldom talked about genre, known as “Zamrock.”
Ketchup and mustard go hand-in-hand, but they both have very different origins, separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles. Mental Floss provides a brief history of the popular condiments. While early mustards were similar to today’s, the first ketchups had more in common with fish sauce.
If you think that electronic music was born in the 1970s or 1980s, you’d be wrong. Bandsplaining introduces us to Silver Apples, a group who was way ahead of their time, creating innovative glitch-pop sounds back in 1967. They even worked with Jimi Hendrix, but faded into obscurity after a controversial album cover did them in.
In the early 1900s, electricity was about to take the world by storm. But live wires couldn’t safely be used without insulation. Resin harvested from insects worked, but was too expensive to harvest. Necessity being the mother of invention, it drove chemist Leo Baekeland to develop what would become the world’s first plastic.
While many considered Nikolai Tesla to be a genius, he also had some pretty outlandish ideas, like the notion that we would stop drinking coffee by the 21st century. Mental Floss editor Erin McCarthy explores this and a number of other wacky predictions that have yet to come true, among them, undersea buses propelled by whales.
(PG-13: Language) “The irritating screech of a dial-up connection was replaced by the equally grating sound of teenagers expressing themselves.” Ordinary Things turns into Ordinary People, as our host walks us through a history of the Emo movement, as it evolved out of punk into something more suburban, then imploded.
If you’ve ever played the The Game of LIFE board game, you know it’s a pretty innocuous way to pass the time. But as Vox points out, the original version that came out in the 1860s included much darker milestones than just buying a house or sending your kids to college.
After a long day at work, it’s nice to take the edge off with a little booze. But where did humans get the idea to ferment spirits and drink them in the first place? TED-Ed presenter Rod Phillips looks back on the 7,000+ year history of alcohol, which like many things, appears to have its origins with ancient Chinese civilizations.
Yep, vacation is over. So it’s time to get back to your desk and maybe do some work or learn something. Let’s start off with another oddball history lesson from Sam O’Nella Academy, and one Timothy Dexter, an 18th century farmhand who married his way into aristocracy, and then became even more wealthy despite his stupidity.
Imagine if you will, that the entire 4.5 billion history of the Earth was collapsed down to a 24-hour single day. Bright Side’s educational video does just that, taking significant events in the development of our world and giving us a relative sense of how closely together they played out.
Back in the 1950s, a new method of transportation was in development. The Fairey Rotodyne looked like the offspring of a helicopter and an airplane, and could take off and land vertically. But fast as it appeared, the Rotodyne vanished. Mustard takes a look at this unique aircraft, and why it never got off the ground.
During WWII, Oak Ridge, Tennessee served as a facility for nuclear weapons development, housing nearly 75,000 people, all while managing to keep the entire existence of the town top secret. Half as Interesting explores the fascinating history of this small southern town.
Ahoy presents an incredibly in-depth analysis of the origins of video games, swiftly debunking any confusion that Pong was the first video game ever, and looking back at early titles like Computer Space, SpaceWar!, Tennis for Two, and their programmers. Turns out hunting down the very first video game isn’t that simple.
Accompanied by an animation from Remus & Kiki, narrator Adrian Dannatt adds his authoritative voice to Alex Gendler’s TED-Ed lesson about the origins of the popular board game, which dates back to the 7th century in India – or possibly earlier – and is still recognized as one of the most challenging strategy games you can play.
You have a better chance of being struck by lightning multiple times than winning a big lottery these days. But a couple of decades back, Stefan Mandel figured out that depending on the size of a lottery’s jackpot, if you bought every single combination, you’d be guaranteed a win. He just had to figure out how to buy them all.
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